Reply To: Ghandhabba, Jati, Vinnana (Consciousness)


Dear Lal,

Your comment:

“In my opinion, reading the works of Roger Penrose, etc., in the present day to Aristotle, Plato and Socrates will not clarify the origin of consciousness. The bottom line is that consciousness CAN NOT arise from inert matter. But, of course, each person is entitled to whatever they want to do.”

I am reading these merely to obtain a correct view of what these scientists are saying. When reading their works I can see where the Buddha Dhamma applies. For example, the following was offered by Colin McGinn (professor of philosophy at Rutgers University) in his book titled “The Mysterious Flame.”

Consciousness and the question of self are intimately related. the self also has a hidden nature, an unknown essence. We ask, under what conditions the self continues to exist. The deeper question is how a bunch of cells can become a self anyway. The fact that there is no scientific criteria for the appearance of selves. We don’t know enough about what makes a self exist. We can know that we exist all right, but we cannot grasp our intrinsic nature. I suggest that our ignorance here is an ignorance of a hidden architecture of the self. Something about the hidden structure of the self determines its unity and identity, but we do not grasp this hidden structure, which is why we cannot answer questions about unity and identity with any reliability. If the existence of the self is so knowable then its nature must also be knowable. The fact is that we have no good theory about mental causation, no model for how reasoning leads to choice. Mental causation is mysterious. We simply have no general theoretical grasp of how mental states cause behavior. Once we let go of the craving to explain, we can accept the reality of something that we cannot theoretically comprehend. But, mental causation remains secretive and opaque.

As I am sure you may experience the same idea, when I read these things, I realize two things: 1) How close some of these scientists and philosophers get, but are totally in the dark. 2) That the things that they state, represent the essence of what is being told to the general public. My only purpose for reading such things is to understand, from an analytical standpoint, what the world is being told in comparison to what the Buddha Dhamma states. Using this knowledge, I will be able to compose a paper that addresses both sides of the issue of consciousness for the purpose of revealing just how lost science and philosophy are with regard to this subject.

Your comment #1: That was a good clarification, thank you. I wish that there was a Bhante such as Waharaka Thero near me. I live in a Dhamma desert. The closest monastery to me is several hundred miles away. My physical health prevents me from doing many things. I was born with a genetic spinal disorder known as Anykylosing Spondylitis. According to the initial questions asked for someone seeking Patimokkha regarding health, i.e. Do you have leprosy? Do you have boils? Do you have eczema? Do you have tuberculosis? Do you have epilepsy? My condition requires that I have constant medical attention and many medications. Part of becoming a Theravada monk requires you to give up all possessions which includes money and any non-essential hygiene equipment or medical supplies such as creams or ointments. That is not possible for me to do.

However, my condition is of no consequence with regard to how I conduct my life as a follower of the Buddha. I fully intend on being a bhikkhu, even if I am not at a monastery or have a Master/preceptor to bring me through the complete set of vows. I conduct my life at present as close to a monk as is possible. I follow the Vinaya rules as much as I am able. I still have to handle money and attend to money-affairs. However, I have given away most of my belongings and live quite frugally.

There are many examples in the Sutta of so-called lay-persons who achieved even Arahanthood. Then there is the existence of a paccekabuddha (ariya-puggala who has realized Nibbana without having heard the Buddha’s doctrine from others.) I do not flatter myself that I am either, but my intention is that I am able to continue to learn and live the Buddha Dhamma until this life-cycle is finished. Writing helps me to learn because I have to do a lot of research. Since the Buddha Dhamma has made such an impression and caused me to change my life, I feel compelled to write about it. Perhaps the reason why I was given the name Anacaryiako was relevant. I have yet to fulfill the true meaning of my first name Dipobhasadhamma, since I can hardly be called a lamp that illuminates the Dhamma, at least not yet.

Thank you for the reference to the Pali dictionary that you use. I did not know of it. Also, I have been using TamilCube’s Pali Dictionary to compare to PTS and Sutta Central. And, thank you for the Post references. I did download your posts in book format as well. But I have started a catalog arranged by subject matter on an external hard drive. I am in the process of creating an Index of subjects for myself as easy reference. I know that it would be a tremendous amount of work, but you might consider compiling your own Pali Dictionary.

Thank you for your generosity and response. I have much reading to do.

With metta,